Joseph Paul Torre was born in Brooklyn, New York on July 18, 1940. He attended St. Francis Prep. located in Brooklyn at the time getting signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1960. He hit .344 & won the batting championship in his only year in the minor leagues making it to the big leagues for good by 1961. He would spend nine years with the Braves moving with the franchise to Atlanta in 1966. He hit over .290 four times, over .300 twice, hit 20 or more HR four times & drove in 100 plus runs twice.
Torre was one of the leagues better catchers as well, leading all backstops in fielding twice & coming in the league's top five, five different times. He threw out 40% or more of would be base stealers seven times, leading the league once. His .990% lifetime as a catcher is 96th best all time. In his career he threw out 41%. At the start of the 1960 season he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda.
The Cards had Tim McCarver as their catcher so Torre moved over to replace Cepeda as the team's first baseman. He hit .289 with 18 HRs 29 doubles & 101 RBIs (6th in the NL).
In 1970 he took over at catcher as McCarver was traded away to Philadelphia. Torre batted .325 (second in the NL) with 203 hits (second in the NL) 21 HRs 100 RBIs & a .398 on base %. In 1971 he had his best year winning the NL MVP Award while leading the league with 230 hits, 137 RBIs & a .361 batting average. He posted a .421 on base % with 24 HRs 97 runs (5th in the NL) scored 8 triples (5th in the NL) & 34 doubles (3rd in the NL).
In 1972 his average fell off to a .289 average with 11 HRs & 81 RBIs. The next two seasons were worse although he still batted over .280, but there was talk that his days were behind him.
The New York Mets had tried to land Joe Torre in the past but were never able to seal a deal. The St. Louis Cardinals usually wanted one of the Mets good young pitchers in return. Finally by 1975 the Cards were clearing the way at first base for a young Keith Hernandez, and had veteran Ron Fairly on hand to get them by the transition. Torre’s numbers had fallen off a bit, especially since his 1971 MVP year. In 1974 he played in 147 games batting .282 with 11 HRs 28 doubles & 70 RBIs while posting a strong .371 on base %. In October of 1974 the Cardinals sent Torre to the Mets for veteran pitcher Ray Sadecki & youngster Tommy Moore.
Torre came from St. Louis with a $150,000 salary which was second to only Tom Seaver’s $175,000 on the Mets payroll.
The Mets was still trying to solve their long time third base problem, although Wayne Garrett had done a fine job the past two seasons. Torre was already very popular in New York and arrived at Shea Stadium with a lot of fanfare. Personally he was thrilled to be back at home, close to his family in Brooklyn.
On Opening Day 1975 at Shea Stadium, Torre was the Mets third baseman & batted in the cleanup spot. In the bottom of the 9th inning the score was tied 1-1 in a classic Tom Seaver- Steve Carlton pitchers’ duel. Felix Millan led off with a single & John Milner then walked. Joe Torre then was the hero of the day as he singled home the walk off game winning run. The rest of his month did not go as well & as he finished off April batting .158 with just five RBIs.
On May 12th in a game against the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium, Torre cleared the bases with a bases loaded double in the 7th inning off Gary Lavalle. He was thrown at third base trying to stretch it into a triple. He had hit just three triples over the past two seasons. The Mets won the game 3-0 on a Jon Matlack shut out.
In mid May he was still hitting under .200 then had a big four hit day in Cincinnati which got him fired up. He went on a 16 game hitting streak in June, hitting a triple and being safe this time, while driving in three runs on June 8th against his old Atlanta Braves team mates. He raised his average up to the .290 mark by the end of June but fell off from there through the rest of the way. He hit into 22 double plays that season (second most in the league).
On July 21st, he set a MLB record by grounding into four double plays in a single game. Each time in the prior at bat Felix Millan had singled, going 4-4 on the night. After the game Torre told the press “I'd like to thank Felix Millán for making all of this possible." In his career Torre grounded into 284 double plays (14th most all time) & led the league in that category three times.
On August 16th he hit a two run HR leading the Mets to a 4-2 win over the Giants at Shea Stadium, it was his last HR of the year.
On the 1975 season he hit just .247 with six HRs 16 doubles three triples 37 RBIs & a .317 on base %. At third base in 83 games he made eleven errors posting a .950 fielding %. Torre also saw action in 24 games at first base.
He rebounded in 1976, raising his average sixty points playing in 114 games. He was the only Met to bat over .300 hitting .306, with five HRs ten doubles 31 RBIs & a .358 on base %. He shared time at first base (78 games) with Ed Kranepool who also had a good year batting .292, as rookie Roy Staiger was given the third base position by the new Mets manager Joe Frazier. Frazier had Staiger as his main short stop in the minor leagues. He only hit .220 with two HRs and never made it as the team's third baseman.
The Mets finished the bicentennial year at 86-76, in third place & one of only five NL Teams to finish over the .500 mark. In May Torre had an eight game hit streak, highlighted by a two run HR in Cincinnati helping the Mets to a 7-5 win. On June 1st he hit a pair of solo HRs against the Pittsburgh Pirates but the Mets still lost the game 3-2. On June 8th he peaked with a .339 batting average buy fell to .299 by the All Star break.
Upon his return he got hot, from July 27th through August 5th he drove in runs in seven of ten games, including four straight.
On August 14th he & Staiger both singled driving in runs helping Nino Espinosa beat future Met Pat Zachary & the Big Red Machine 2-1. He got his average up over .300 again going into September On September 14th he hit a two run HR helping the Mets to a 4-3 win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
On Opening Day 1977 at Wrigley Field, Torre had two hits including a top of the 9th inning double which scored Bruce Boisclair & Dave Kingman with the winning runs in the 8-6 Mets win over the Cubs. He hit what turned out to be his last career HR on April 13th off veteran Clay Carroll & his old Cardinals team mates at Shea Stadium.
At the end of May 1977, the Mets were in last place & the organization was changing for the worst. The team fired manager Joe Frazier after posting a 15-30 record & named Joe Torre the 8th manager in Mets history. Torre began as a player / manager at first, the third player /manager of the seventies in major league baseball. After 18 days & playing in three games with two official at bats, he chose to retire from playing as to focus 100% on managing. The fact that he wasn’t hitting helped make his decision easier, after 26 games he was only batting .176 with one HR & 9 RBIs.
In his Mets career Torre played in 254 games batting .267 with 193 hits 12 HRs 29 doubles 6 triples & 75 RBIs posting a .327 on base %.
In his total career he played in 2209 games (130th all time) with 2342 hits (130th all time) 344 doubles, 59 triples 252 HRs (198th all time) 1185 RBIs (153rd all time) a .365 on base % & a .297 batting average (243rd all time). His 127 intentional walks are 70th all time & his 655 extra base hits 219th all time. In his career Torre played on nine All Star teams, won an MVP Award & a Hutch Award.
He also led the league defensively in at least one category at three different positions.
He played ten seasons as catcher (903 games) leading the league in fielding twice, caught stealing & percentage of throwing out base runners one time each. He played 14 seasons at first base (787 games) leading the league in assists in 1974 & eight seasons at third base (515 games) leading the league in games & put outs in 1971.
Manager: Torre began his tenure as manager on Tuesday May 31st, 1977 at Shea Stadium in front of 6, 500 fans. That night the Mets beat the Montreal Expos 6-2 with Craig Swan earning the win, Bob Apodaca earning the save & John Milner driving in three runs.
The Mets won the first three games of Torre’s managerial career & went 6-1 in his first week. But after that it all went downhill, as his managing career didn’t start out as well as it went later on in his life. In his early days he actually wasn’t all that good at managerial decisions, always playing the percentages and sacrificing way too much. In all fairness to him, the Mets were falling apart at the time.
Tom Seaver was unhappy & was traded in July. The team chose not to go after any of the high proce free agents now on the open market & any players left from their pennant season of 1973 were now aging.
Torre’s Mets finished in last place at the end of 1977 (37 games back) going 49-69 under his leadership. He would finish last again in 1978 with a record of 66-96 (24 games back). In 1979 they were no better going 63-99 in last place, 35 games behind the Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets improved to fifth place in 1980 going 69-95 still 24 games out of first place. The 1981 season was split due to the players strike, Torre’s Mets finished fifth in the first half and fourth in the second half of the season.
By 1982 new ownership had taken over the team, as Nelson Doubleday & Fred Wilpon bought the team. They hired General Manager Frank Cashen & he began to make changes. Torre was one of the first to go, getting fired and replaced by George Bamberger for the 1982 season. In his five years as Mets manager Torre was 286-420 with a .405 winning %. Up to this point in time Rube Walker was still the team’s pitching coach, in his 14 year in that position & Joe Pignatano also had been around coaching since the days of Gil Hodges. Torre took his two loyal coaches with him to Atlanta when he landed a job with his old team the Braves.
Moving to the Atlanta Braves the following season, he started out strong going 13-0. He finished the year 89-73 winning the Western Division for Atlanta. It was the first time they had won the division since divisional play began in 1969 & they lost to the Amazing Mets in the NLCS. The Braves lost the 1982 NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals. The following season the Braves finished in second place but had their first consecutive winning seasons since moving from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966. In 1984 they fell to near .500 & Torre was fired. From there he went on to become a popular California Angel’s broadcaster from 1985-1990.
In August 1990, Torre returned to the dug out to manage another of his former teams, the St. Louis Cardinals. He took over for interim manager Red Schoendienst, who had filled in after Whitey Herzog resigned. Torre guided St. Louis to a respectable 84-78 finish in 1991, good enough for a second place finish behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East. The team was 83-79 the following year and 87-75 in 1993, finishing third both times. In 1994 the league was divided into new divisions & the Cards tied for third place with a 53-61 record In 1995 after a 20-27 start to the season he was let go as former Met Mike Jorgensen took over the helm.
The AL New York club had finished second under Buck Showalter, but he was forced out by a miserable owner. Torre was hired to lead the club after & was happy to get a chance to return home to the New York area. At first people raised their eyebrows & called him clueless Joe. But soon he proved them wrong, winning four World Series, six pennants & two Manger of the Year Awards in his twelve year run in the Bronx. At the end of his run he was being criticized by management & the media who weren’t happy anymore as the rival Red Sox were winning World Series. He was quickly hired by the Los Angeles Dodgers as their manager for the 2008-2010 seasons until his retirement.
In 2011 & 2012 he served as Vice President of Baseball Operations for MLB.
Family: Torre has been married three times & has four children. His brother Frank played first base for the Milwaukee Braves from 1956-1960 winning two pennants & one World Series title. He also played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1962-1963, batting .273 lifetime with 404 hits 13 HRs 78 doubles & 179 RBIs.
Another Torre brother was a New York police officer & their sister was a Catholic Nun & principal of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Ozone Park, Queens NY.